Behind the Scenes Designing the World’s Largest “Indoor” Sukkah

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With the High Holidays just around the corner, Israel’s capital is readying itself for an influx of visitors. Particularly Sukkot, as one of the most popular times of year to visit the city, brings with it great weather and dining, lots of entertainment and activities for all ages.

And tucked into the city landscape will be the world’s largest ‘indoor’ sukkah at the internationally renowned Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem.

Waldorf Sukkah

If you ever thought that decorating your family's sukkah was a challenge, imagine what it’s like designing this structure which will feed and entertain over 250 guests over the course of the holiday.

The sukkah is situated right in the middle of the hotel's lobby atrium thanks to a retractable glass rooftop that allows it to be both indoors and out.  The roof can be opened and closed in a matter of seconds – ensuring that a rain-soaked sukkot meal becomes a thing of the past.

Waldorf Sukka side view Credit Perry Easy.jpeg

The design, which was coordinated together with halachic authorities, allows the lobby to become a sukkah in every sense of the term and ensure guests can enjoy the hotel’s award-winning fine dining in a climate controlled setting.

“Our hotel has achieved what every kosher hotel around the world has been striving for for decades,” says Guy Klaiman, the Waldorf’s General Manager. “A sukkah that has all the comforts of an indoor dining room but still with direct exposure to the stars and heavens as mandated by halacha.”

Waldorf Sukka Close up Credit Perry Easy.jpeg

Even while the holiday itself spans just over a week, the planning for Sukkot at the Waldorf begins months in advance.

Together with the hotel’s management and banquet coordinators, design of all of the hotels sukkahs is the responsibility of Jerusalem-based interior decorating firm Yarok Yarok. Each year the firm, which has also coordinated much of the hotel’s interior look and is responsible for the upkeep of hundreds of floral arrangements that can be found throughout the Waldorf, develops a customized thematic plan upon which the entire sukkah will be based.

For the 2016 season, the designers have rallied behind one of the Seven Species and the various structures around the hotel will reflect the feeling of an ancient vineyard with floral and other decorations focused on Israel’s diverse range of native grape species.

After months of planning, perfecting sketches and selecting top-quality suppliers for flowers and other decorations, three months before the first guest will settle into the sukkah, the work crews descend on the hotel.

Grape motif at Waldorf

“For a typical event, the goal is to have the site look its best for six or seven hours but here we are talking about preserving beauty for over a week,“ Amit Zakoon, CEO of Yarok Yarok. “This requires that we carefully choose our design elements because the goal is to be both authentic and stylish.”

The design team also works in tandem with the hotel’s kosher supervisors who are equipped with a discerning eye and tape measures to ensure that the sukkah is built and decorated in line with all halachic standards. While the retractable rooftop sits several stories up, the traditional schach (bamboo) covering is expertly positioned to make the sukkah kosher.

Peaches at waldorf

While the main lobby atrium sukkah is the distinctive Waldorf masterpiece that has the hotel attracting hundreds of guests around the world, the designers are also responsible for two other outdoor and rooftop sukkot, hosting between 200 and 260 guests each, as well as several private sukkot adjacent to luxury suites and those belonging to the owners of the Waldorf residences. “We pride ourselves on offering guests a variety of choices, but the bottom line is an unwavering commitment to quality and ensuring a holiday experience that you won’t find anywhere else,” says Klaiman.

According to Design Manager Noa Kirshberg, the team which at its peak becomes a staff of 15 florists, carpenters, and designers typically is adjusting the sukkah literally until the last possible minute. “This project has become a labor of love because it allows us to bring additional beauty to a hotel setting that is already world renowned and do so for a holiday that has become an ultimate Jerusalem experience.”

Photo credit:Design by Studio Ya Ya - Perry Easy.

Get an inside look at the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem here: